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Herd 17

By Hawkeye
Created: 18th December 2020 04:29:43 PM

  1. >Rain.
  2. >The newspaper reports that it's the last of it for the year.
  3. >From here on out, it will be snow.
  4. >But previous storms hadn't generated quite enough liquid precipitation.
  5. >So today they're coordinating a big ol' front across half of Equestria.
  6. >The southern states are still sunny, they can make up the rain down there later in the year.
  7. >But in Canterlot, the skies are grey, the wind is cold and the rain is relentless.
  8. >Folding up the paper, you tuck it under your arm as the taxi pulls up at the castle gates.
  9. >Opening an umbrella, you step out onto a patchwork of cobblestones and puddles.
  10. >Waving yet another royal summons at the guards gets you in.
  11. >Briskly walking across the grounds, you find yourself only a bit damp by the time you reach the entry hall.
  12. >At the doors to the audience chamber, the herald informs you that she is currently with another pony.
  13. >So you take a seat.
  14. >Ten minutes go by, and you start to feel that maybe this is intentional.
  15. >You had an appointment, according to the summons.
  16. >And it should have started seven minutes ago.
  17. >Ten more minutes go by, and you have been offered a cup of coffee and a pastry.
  18. >Munching on the pastry, you now know that she's messing with you.
  19. >Probably upset about your private audience with Luna.
  20. >Mares.
  21. >Even alicorn ones.
  22. >Still mares.
  23. >Reaching into a coat pocket, you dump a bit of whiskey into your coffee.
  24. >Just a bit.
  25. >That'll make dealing with a huffy sun horse princess much easier.
  26. >"Mister Anonymous? The princess will be ready for you shortly."
  27. >On deck.
  28. >Here we go.
  29. >Quickly downing the coffee, you check your tie and scarf down the last bit of your pastry.
  30. >On cue, you are allowed in to see your old friend, who seems rather unfriendly today.
  31. >No bother.
  32. >Walking confidently down the carpet, you approach the throne and offer a bow.
  33. "You summoned me, your highness?"
  34. >"Sister tells us you were contrite yesterday evening, but you seem rather smug this morning, Anonymous."
  35. "I wouldn't say that." you counter, straightening up. "Luna simply helped me come to some decisions last night. I would almost say that I'm feeling...confident?"
  36. >"Indeed. Confident that you've evaded a lecture from me?"
  37. "I was thinking more along the lines of 'ready to go back to Ponyville and confront this mess' but I certainly wouldn't be disappointed if I skipped a second lecture."
  38. >With a tremendous sigh, the princess' stony facade falls and she throws a look of exhaustion and mild exasperation your way.
  39. >"I have barely been holding court for an hour, and already have had to console two ponies and shout at another. And then you come in, neither contrite nor defiant, but simply your usual sarcastic yet optimistic self."
  40. "Well, I-"
  41. >"I sent you to Ponyville to get some rest and find some mares, Anonymous, not to become a street fighter."
  42. "Luna seems to-"
  43. >"I know what my sister thinks. And perhaps your mares find it romantic. I am not courting you, I simply received the report from Ponyville."
  44. "We could change that, you know." you suggest, wiggling your eyebrows.
  45. >It takes a moment before comprehension dawns across her face.
  46. >"A princess does not humor the affections of a lowly brawler." she sniffs haughtily. "If only there were a stately gentlecolt of proper education about, she might have been interested."
  47. "He already got rejected." you shrug "I thought I'd try the *bad colt* approach."
  48. >"Anon, please sit." she instructs, pulling a chair from the wall with her magic and dropping it behind you.
  49. >With a small sigh, you drop unceremoniously into the seat.
  50. >It doesn't even have arms.
  51. >"Anon, you know that Luna and I consider you among our few close friends."
  52. >You nod.
  53. >"So I want you to know that I know. We know. Between what you told Luna last night, the charade you're putting on right now and what we know from our friendship with you...we know."
  54. >You nod, slower this time.
  55. >"I don't have to lecture you. And this is as close as I shall get." she says, straightening up. "I know that you would never start a fight, though your unwillingness to back down from one surprised both Luna and myself."
  56. >Heh
  57. >"I also know that you have spent most of yesterday and will spend most of today thinking about four mares back in Ponyville."
  58. >Probably.
  59. >"And nothing I say will bother you so much as the idea that you have disappointed those four."
  60. >Hum.
  61. >"So while you were ordered by the Court to apologize to one of the princesses, and that task is complete, the arguably more difficult task lies ahead still."
  62. >Ugh, what is Roseluck going to say?
  63. >"Now, I would love to talk all morning with you, but my schedule is unfortunately quite full. So I shall let you go, and test that confidence against a solitary train ride back to Ponyville."
  64. >She smiles down at you, and you can't help but feel that she's rather smug about it.
  65. "Of course. Sorry again for breaking the peace."
  66. >"Get out of here before I give you a real lecture."
  67.  
  68. >Celestia certainly nailed it on the head.
  69. >This train ride sucks.
  70. >Your arm is throbbing and you can't stop thinking about the girls.
  71. >As soon as you get Roseluck out of your head, Aloe steps in.
  72. >Only to be replaced by Lyra.
  73. >At least the Lotus in your head is supportive.
  74. >But she keeps getting pushed out by disappointed mares.
  75. >You had refilled your flask before you left, and it's already half-empty.
  76. >Eh, it helps with your arm at least.
  77. >A familiar speck in the far-off hills tells you that you're about halfway to Ponyville.
  78. >Alright, well, what if we put together a game plan?
  79. >That seems like a good idea.
  80. >A plan of attack.
  81. >Three of your mares will be at work.
  82. >Your train gets in just after noon.
  83. >So you'll have time to get back to your suite, take a short nap, freshen up, hopefully not smell like whiskey, and go to see Lyra.
  84. >Then after Lyra...Rose.
  85. >Aloe and Lotus have scheduled appointments.
  86. >Rose doesn't.
  87. >Usually.
  88. >Then, after Roseluck, you'll retreat to the Twins' place.
  89. >Hopefully Aloe and Lotus will be the least upset with you.
  90. >You might even crash with them for the night.
  91. >It would be nice to have somepony to hold for a while.
  92. >Wow, having mares is making you mushy.
  93. >Or maybe that's the alcohol.
  94. >Whatever.
  95. >Freshen up. Then Lyra. Then Roseluck. Then Aloe and Lotus.
  96. >Good plan.
  97. >With that settled, you turn to look out the window and watch the farms roll past.
  98.  
  99. >Walking out of the station, you are greeted by...more rain.
  100. >The same rain that covers half of Equestria.
  101. >That pelted the train all the way back to Ponyville.
  102. >And that is now soaking into your pea coat as you trudge through town towards the castle.
  103. >What a miserable day, all around.
  104. >Opening the door to the castle, you head up the stairs, and you can hear Twilight dictating something to Spike.
  105. >You really should have spoken to Luna about getting the poor guy out of here.
  106. >He deserves more than to be a secretary for his entire life.
  107. >Closing the door behind you, you toss your bag on a chair and hang up your coat.
  108. >Downing the last of your whiskey, you put the empty flask on your desk.
  109. >Starting to strip down, you get your shirt and tie off when there's a knock on your door.
  110. >Shit.
  111. >You knew you forgot someone!
  112. >Twilight!
  113. >But! You've already given your official apology!
  114. >So you're mostly off the hook.
  115. >Maybe.
  116. >Opening the door, Twilight looks up at you nervously.
  117. >"We need to talk."
  118. >Sighing internally (and maybe a little externally -whoops!) you step back and allow her in.
  119. >She hops onto one of the chairs, and you prop yourself up on the bed.
  120. >"So I heard about Cloudchaser."
  121. >You just wait.
  122. >"Anon, I know you've already been to Canterlot and apologized to Luna and Celestia, but I really feel like we should talk about this."
  123. "Well, what do you want to talk about?"
  124. >"You got into a fight! What do you mean 'what do you want to talk about'!?"
  125. "I didn't start it. I simply controlled the situation as best I could."
  126. >"It doesn't matter who started it, you shouldn't have joined in!"
  127. "I am going to defend myself, Twilight." you object.
  128. >"Look, I know that Cloudchaser started it, but couldn't you have just avoided her?"
  129. "Could I have outrun the second fastest pegasus in Ponyville? No."
  130. >"Well I don't know, Anon. Maybe you could stop flirting with her sister! Then this wouldn't have happened! She already warned you to leave Flitter alone once, why didn't you just listen?"
  131.  
  132. "Cloudchaser does not own Flitter."
  133. >"That's no excuse!"
  134. "Well maybe my excuse is that Flitter is a cute and intelligent mare, and I happen to have an opening for one of those in the Herd that I am being *forced* to assemble."
  135. >"Anonymous, don't try to push this back on me! I'm not the one who got into a fight!"
  136. "Sure. I got into a fight. I already made my apologies."
  137. >"Good. Now I want you to talk to Cloudchaser-"
  138. >Well gee, that sounds like a swell plan, Twilight!
  139. >You just shake your head silently.
  140. >"I've already talked to her, Anon. You two need to work this out."
  141. "I'll talk to her, but I make no promises."
  142. >"Why do you have to make this difficult?"
  143. "I have been home for five minutes, Twilight. I'm tired."
  144. >"Have you been drinking?"
  145. "Why does that matter?"
  146. >"You have, haven't you?"
  147. "It helped make the train ride manageable."
  148. >"Anon, the entire point of getting you a Herd was to help you manage your life! What would Roseluck say about this?"
  149. "Well, she probably wouldn't tell me to talk to Cloudchaser."
  150. >"Anon, please!"
  151. "Alright, alright." you say, doing your best to placate the purple princess "I'll talk to Cloudy."
  152. >"Good." she shoots back. "Now as for your drinking-"
  153. >Oh God...this is going to be a long one.
  154. >She's rambling on down a list of the signs of addiction as your mind wanders off.
  155. >You need a shower.
  156. >Then a nap.
  157. >Or vice-versa.
  158. >Then off to see Lyra.
  159. >Octavia seems to think that will go well.
  160. >You hope that she's right...
  161. >"Anon! Are you even listening to me!?"
  162. "Sure thing, you have successfully identified that I drink too much."
  163. >"Aaaaaand?" she asks, leaning forward expectantly.
  164. "I'm getting the sense that you want me to stop."
  165. >"Yes, that is...technically correct." she says, shoulders sagging. "But I want you to do this for you, Anon. Not for me. Don't you know how bad it is for you?"
  166. "Yes, Twilight. I know."
  167. >"You don't have to stop drinking entirely. You can still go out with Rainbow Dash and Applejack once in a while."
  168. >How generous of her.
  169. >"Even though I've told Dash the same thing about her cider habit, but she really did perk up when I told her I thought that you had a problem..."
  170. >Glad she shared that thought with everyone else before you.
  171. >"...she's better at helping others than she is at helping herself sometimes. But really, can't you two find something else to do? Something productive? Or educational?"
  172. "I'll look into it."
  173. >"Good. Now I have a letter to Celestia to finish, but don't think I'm going to forget this conversation!"
  174. "Of course."
  175. >After a short pause, likely mentally running over her checklist for this conversation, Twilight hops off of the chair and trots out the door.
  176. >You lie back on the bed.
  177. >That...went about as well as could be expected.
  178. >Mostly scripted, occasionally heartfelt, 100% Twilight Sparkle.
  179. >And by refusing to refute her, you kept her from going off on any major tangents!
  180. >Score one for the Republic!
  181. >Now about that nap...
  182.  
  183. >You are rested.
  184. >Clean.
  185. >Sober.
  186. >Generally prepared.
  187. >But you still stand nervously outside of Lyra's house.
  188. >Remember what Octavia told you.
  189. >It's going to be fine.
  190. >You shift your arm in its sling, and proceed through the gate and up the walk.
  191. >Knocking on the door, you hear nothing.
  192. >Knocking again, you hear a *whump* and scrambling hooves.
  193. >The door suddenly swings open, and a bleary eyed Lyra looks at your belt with confusion.
  194. >Slowly she looks up, and jumps back.
  195. >Then leaps forward, forcing you to try to awkwardly catch her with one arm.
  196. >"Anon! I was so worried about you! Where have you been!?"
  197. "Can we go inside?"
  198. >"C'mon!" she agrees, grabbing your good hand with magic and practically dragging you into the living room.
  199. >You're not sure if you even heard the front door close...
  200. >She pushes you onto the couch and promptly jumps up to straddle your lap.
  201. >Nose to nose with the mint musician, you do the only thing that comes to mind.
  202. >You plant a kiss on her nose.
  203. >She scrunches adorably, then sits down by planting her rump on your knees.
  204. >It isn't comfortable for you, and you can't imagine that it's comfortable for her either.
  205. >But she seems focused on inspecting your sling.
  206. >"It's really good that you're wearing this, Anon." she says, checking that it's actually adjusted and you're not wearing it for show. "I promised Roseluck that I'd help her watch you."
  207. "Oh really?"
  208. >"Mhm! We all did! And after Rainbow Dash told me about your fight...oh my gosh, the fight!" she gasps "I almost forgot to ask! Anon, what happened? Are you alright? Rainbow said your arm might have gotten hurt even more-"
  209. >Reaching up, you take Lyra's muzzle in one hand and steer it in for a kiss.
  210. >With Lyra now suitably subdued, you take a breath.
  211. "Cloudchaser picked a fight when I was walking Flitter home from the party." you state simply "My arm does hurt, I got tackled pretty good."
  212. >Lyra stares at you, then your arm, then back at you.
  213. >"You really should have avoided that fight, Anon. You could have gotten really hurt!"
  214. "Well, I-"
  215. >Lyra's hooves dig into your thighs as she rises to wrap you in a hug.
  216. >"I just care about you, Anon." she sniffs "Be careful, okay?"
  217. "Hey now, it's just life in Ponyville." you say, rubbing her back gently with your good arm. "It's not like I lead a life of adventure or something."
  218. >"Oh Anon, I know that." she says, planting her rump back down. "But Aloe is right... you seem to always find some kind of trouble."
  219. "Oh yeah, because those two have any room to talk."
  220. >"Anon!" Lyra exclaims "That wasn't very nice."
  221. >You just give her a deadpan stare.
  222. >"Okay, so maybe Lotus starts things sometimes..."
  223. >...
  224. >"And maybe Aloe encourages her."
  225. >...
  226. >"Stop that!" she says, breaking eye contact.
  227. "And maybe cute, innocent little fillies like you shouldn't be hanging out with those *bad influences*" you suggest facetiously.
  228. >"W-what?"
  229. "I'm just messing with you, Lyra." you say with a laugh. "Aloe and Lotus are trouble, but the good kind of trouble."
  230. >"Oh, good. Because-"
  231. "I do think you're cute and innocent though." you elaborate. "Downright adorable, really."
  232. >"You do?"
  233. "Yeah, I do."
  234. >She scrunches up for a second, before coming to some realization.
  235. >"Hey! Wait a minute!"
  236. >Uh oh.
  237. >Here comes the lecture.
  238. >"Don't distract me, Anon! I'm serious about you staying out of trouble."
  239. "Oh, and what are you proposing to do about it?" you ask wryly, wrapping an arm around her barrel to scoot her in close.
  240. >She wriggles around to lean back against you, your arm securing her in place as she stretches her head back to nuzzle your cheek.
  241. >"I'll think of something, just you wait!"
  242. "I look forward to it."
  243. >"And another thing!" she huffs "What took you so long!? It's been like, forever since that fight!"
  244. "Well, you're the first one I visited after getting back."
  245. >"Back? Where did you go?" she asks, sliding onto the couch beside you.
  246. >Lifting your good arm, you allow her to lay her head on your leg and proceed to run your fingers through her mane.
  247. "I went Canterlot. To apologize to the princesses."
  248. >"Aw, you should have taken me with you!"
  249. "It was kind of a last minute decision."
  250. >"Tavi was in Canterlot and everything! I wouldn't have been a bother..."
  251. "I know. I never said you were." you reassure her. "If you're free next time I go, I'll take you with me."
  252. >"Promise?"
  253. "I promise."
  254. >"Okay. But if I'm the only one you've visited, you should probably go talk to the other girls now."
  255. "Kicking me out?" you ask, slowly scratching your way up her neck.
  256. >"Nnnngh...okay, maybe not yet."
  257.  
  258. >The market is reasonably busy considering the weather.
  259. >Nightmare Night is coming up soon, so there are plenty of folks at Bonbons stocking up and as you approach the Flower Sisters' place you spot Daisy manning a cart full of Autumnal decor, doing her best to stay dry under the carts awning.
  260. >Passing her by, you make your way inside and find the shop to be quiet, comfortable and full of the vibrant mélange of floral scents you have come to expect.
  261. >You hear voices in the back, and the gentle clip-clop of hooves on a worn wood floor.
  262. >"Oh, hello Anon." Lily greets you as she comes around the corner. "We were wondering when you were going to stop by."
  263. "Ah, so that's why my ears were burning."
  264. >"Mhmmm. So Rosey's in back...I'll stay here."
  265. "Alright. See you later, Lily."
  266. >Making your way around the counter and down the hall, you locate Roseluck, muzzle deep in an ornate arrangement full of gourds, preserved leaves and sumac tied together in a wicker form.
  267. >"How is your arm?"
  268. "Sore, more than usual." you confess "Maybe you were right about the sling.."
  269. >"Of course I was."
  270. "Rose..."
  271. >"Anon."
  272. >With a sigh, you drop onto a low stool across the table from her.
  273. >If Octavia was right about Lyra, you certainly called Roseluck right.
  274. >You wish you had been wrong though.
  275. "Rose, about the fight-"
  276. >She doesn't look up, but you can see her ears twitch attentively.
  277. "You know I'm not the kind to start something like that, but you also know that I'm going to stand my ground, especially for my mares."
  278. >"Mhm."
  279. "I've held my tongue about the whole incident with Lotus, and I've avoided bragging about hoofball..."
  280. >Inhaling slowly you brace yourself.
  281. "...and now it came to a head anyways over Flitter. So now I want to place a decision in your hooves."
  282. >Her eyes tilt up just enough to peer over the mess of twigs and wicker between the two of you.
  283. "Flitter. Keep going or drop it entirely, it's your call."
  284. >You can see just barely enough of her eyes to know that they momentarily go very wide before Rose exhales through her nose and closes them.
  285. >When she reopens her eyes, she's her usual composed self, slowly putting down her tools and hopping off the workbench and moving around the table.
  286. >"You look uncomfortable. Let's go upstairs."
  287.  
  288. >Lounging on the couch, you have to admit that it is much more comfortable than a stool clearly meant for a pony.
  289. >Rose hoofs you a mug of coffee and hops onto the opposite corner of the couch.
  290. >"I don't know what I'm going to do with you sometimes, Anon."
  291. >You take a sip...still too hot
  292. >"I don't care that you got into a fight -I should, but I don't- because I know that you wouldn't do that if you didn't have to."
  293. >So far so good...
  294. >"I don't know how to feel about Flitter. She's an adorable mare, a smart and hardworking pony who I think would do very well in our Herd-"
  295. >Here it comes.
  296. >"-But she brings so much drama with her in the form of her sister that it hardly seems worth the effort."
  297. "That's why-"
  298. >"I'm not finished." she interrupts sternly "I appreciate that you trust me to make that decision, Anon, but it really isn't a decision I should make."
  299. >...what?
  300. >"Did you ask Lyra? or Aloe or Lotus?" she continues, stepping across the cushions until she's nose to nose with you. "Or is this just a question for the mare you won't officially call your alpha mare?"
  301. >RED ALERT
  302. >Taking evasive maneuvers!
  303. >You quickly close the gap between yourself and Roseluck, planting a long, tender kiss on her lips.
  304. >To your surprise she pushes back, stepping forward and parting her lips.
  305. >Taking hold of her withers, you pull her in as the kiss deepens, her hooves on your shoulders as she wordlessly communicates how she feels.
  306. >All of her pent up frustration, her oft unspoken need for attention, her raw desire for physical affection all poured into a single kiss.
  307. >When she finally releases you, she drops her hooves off your shoulders and collapses against your chest.
  308. >Cradling her gently, you feel her breathing heavily as your heart pounds in your chest.
  309. >You can hear the rain and an occasional rumble of thunder outside, and the subtle scent of roses lingers in your nose, be it from the shop downstairs or the mare in your arms you're not sure.
  310. >After a few quiet moments pass, you feel her take a deep breath.
  311. >"That little trick might distract the other girls, but I haven't forgotten what we were talking about, you know."
  312. >Rats.
  313. >"I'm going to start acting like your alpha if you keep treating me like one."
  314. "Oh?"
  315. >"Mhmm."
  316. "That sounds like a threat."
  317. >"It's for your own good."
  318. "Do tell."
  319. >"Hmmmm...no, I don't think I will." she says, nuzzling your cheek. "You're just going to have to wait and see."
  320. "I get it. I'm making you wait and now I'm going to pay for it, huh?"
  321. >"Well, at least if you add Flitter, you'll be a mare closer to filling the Herd."
  322. "Hey now-"
  323. >"You know that it's killing me not to know, right Anon?"
  324. "Well, let's get this Herd filled then."
  325. >She snorts, then laughs.
  326. >"Didn't you tell me that Princess Twilight and her friends were supposed to do that for you?"
  327. "Meh, they're taking too long." you dismiss "And it's driving one of my mares nuts."
  328. >"What did you just call me!?"
  329. "I, uh, I didn't-"
  330. >"I'm just teasing." she says, tapping your chest and looking up at you. "But I might just set you up on a date or two myself if they don't hurry up."
  331. "I know, I know, I should spend more time with you and the girls..."
  332. >"That too, but I meant that I can think of a mare or two you might like."
  333. "I'm not sure I like the idea of you having close allies in the Herd."
  334. >"Worried you'll be outnumbered?"
  335. "I'm worried I'll be outmaneuvered. I'm already outnumbered."
  336. >"Maybe we wouldn't have to maneuver so much if you listened to us in the first place."
  337. "Us?"
  338. >"Your mares."
  339. "I sometimes get conflicting information from them."
  340. >"All the more reason to choose an alpha mare."
  341. >Running your hand through her mane, she hums happily.
  342. "Hopefully soon."
  343. >"Hopefully." she mutters "And hopefully next time he won't take so long to talk to his mares..."
  344. "In my defense, I was in Canterlot."
  345. >"Dodging a Sparkle Lecture?"
  346. "Exact-"
  347. >"Or dodging your Herd?"
  348. >Oof.
  349. "You wound me, Princess."
  350. >"Am I wrong?"
  351. "I...needed time to collect my thoughts."
  352. >"Were you really that afraid of what we would say?"
  353. "Not all of you..."
  354. >"Just me, then." she states dejectedly, looking at the floor.
  355. "You and Lyra, actually." you admit.
  356. >"Why?" she asks, with those big, sad eyes that just tear you apart.
  357. "I knew Lotus would support me, what with her history with Cloudy. And if Lotus did, Aloe probably would too."
  358. >"And Lyra?"
  359. "She's so innocent, I was worried that she would think less of me."
  360. >"And you thought I would scold you? That I'm a nag, trying be your alpha and take charge of the Herd? That you would get a lecture to make Twilight Sparkle seem a foalish apprentice again?"
  361. "No! No. Rose, please, I didn't think that at all!"
  362. >"Then why avoid us!? Why avoid me?"
  363. "Because I thought you would be disappointed in me. The way you talked about me around your parents, your sisters, your friends...I felt like you believed in me."
  364. >She stares at you, patiently listening.
  365. "And hopefully you still do believe in me, in the me that everyone talks about. But that Anon doesn't get into fights. I didn't know what you'd say, but I wasn't ready for you to be disappointed in me."
  366. >You exhale slowly.
  367. "It's hard, sometimes, trying to be the guy you all deserve. I knew I didn't meet that standard, that I messed up pretty badly, and I wasn't able to deal with it. So I ran off to Canterlot, with a convenient excuse in hand, to hide until I figured out what I was supposed to do."
  368. >There's a pause, as Roseluck dried her face on your shirt, before she gets onto her hooves.
  369. >Placing a kiss on your cheek, she follows up with a trademark stiff tap on your chest.
  370. >"You are the dumbest genius I know sometimes." she says, still sniffling a little. "We know you aren't perfect, Anon. Nopony is. But you're supposed to run /to/ us when life gets hard, not /from/ us."
  371. "Sorry. I just- I haven't done...this-" you gesture broadly at her and everywhere "in years. Since before I came to Equestria. I'm used to working to impress, and being on my own. I'm probably not a very good coltfriend."
  372. >"I think you're doing an alright job." Roseluck counters slyly. "Maybe we can still save you."
  373. "Oh /thank you/, Princess." you quip back, happy to be back in familiar territory.
  374. >"Just know, Anon, that I'm going to talk to the girls about what you said." she warns as you get up to leave.
  375. >Turning to look at her, she continues.
  376. >"You are going to get used to this-" she says, mimicking your earlier gesture "-whether you like it or not."
  377. "I'm looking forward to it."
  378.  
  379.  
  380. >You are forced to use your umbrella outside, as the rain alternates between a steady drum and full downpour.  
  381. >The rain seems to be ramping up into a full storm.
  382. >It is a blessed relief when you make it to the spa, able to shake off your umbrella and hang up your coat.
  383. >No one is at the counter.
  384. >Glancing at the schedule, it seems that Aloe finished her shift about...ten minutes ago.
  385. >At the same time, Lotus started her next appointment.
  386. >One at a time, then.
  387. >You check in back first, and find Aloe hunched over a desk in the office.
  388. >No rest for a weary businesspony.
  389. "And here I thought the schedule said your shift was over."
  390. >"Oh, Anon! I didn't hear you come in." she says with a start, before taking her glasses off with a sigh. "I was just balancing today's ledger."
  391. "Sounds important. I can wait."
  392. >"Like you've kept us waiting, and worrying?"
  393. "Err, about that-"
  394. >"No. You're right. I need to finish this right now, but it won't take much longer. The rain kept most ponies home today."
  395. >With that she dons her glasses once more and returns her focus to the papers on the desk.
  396. >Taking a seat in Lotus' chair, you wait in silence.
  397. >When the weather picks up, you can hear the rain lashing the roof and every couple of minutes there is the pleasant sound of a quill scratching on paper as Aloe adds a thrice-checked total to her books.
  398. >But mostly... silence.
  399. >"Okay, done." she announces, letting out a yawn. "All Lotus has to do is add in her final two appointments, and I'll total it out tomorrow."
  400. "Sounds good?"
  401. >"It is." she says, hopping out of her chair and moving to the door. "Let's go home."
  402.  
  403. >After trudging through the rain in silence -this time understandable, given how the wind has picked up- you make it to the townhouse.
  404. >"Sit. I am going to make some tea."
  405. >You do as you're told, after taking off your soaking wet coat and shoes of course.
  406. >From the couch, you watch Aloe set a kettle on the stove, decide on some tea, and even wander back into the living room to light the fireplace.
  407. >Eventually, she hops up next to you and leans in before recoiling.
  408. >"Anon! Your clothes are all damp and cold, you're going to get sick like that!"
  409. "Well, you're not wrong, but-"
  410. >"Off with them. At least the top layer." she commands. "I'll throw them in the dryer."
  411. "It's really-"
  412. >"Now, Anon."
  413. "Jeeze, okay."
  414.  
  415. >Ten minutes later, you are sitting barefoot in your boxers and undershirt, sipping tea by the fire with Aloe as your clothes go for a tumble in the dryer.
  416. >"Anon, I'm very upset with you."
  417. "I, uh, gathered that."
  418. >"I don't care that you got into a fight. I was disappointed at first, but I saw Flitter the next day and she explained everything. You were very noble sticking your neck out for her."
  419. >She talked to Flitter?
  420. >"And I am glad that you are wearing your sling. It is about time you took that seriously."
  421. >Ugh.
  422. >"But Anon, what I don't understand is why, instead of coming and hiding here with me and Lotus, you decided to run away to Canterlot."
  423. "Well, I was ordered-"
  424. >"To give an apology? And did you manage to escape talking to Princess Twilight by giving that apology to Princess Celestia instead?"
  425. "No."
  426. >"Of course not." she says, rolling her eyes "Nopony can evade those lectures Anon. Not even the fastest pegasus in Equestria."
  427. >Heh.
  428. >Ain't that the truth.
  429. >"So the only thing I can think of that explains why you went to Canterlot instead of staying here and holing up with the mares that love you is that you were either ashamed of your actions or scared of how we would react."
  430. "That is-"
  431. >"Which one?" she says, voice quivering "Which one was it?"
  432. "Both?"
  433. >"Both? Both! Both." she says, trying to find the answer she needs.
  434. >You can see tears forming and wrap an arm around her.
  435. >"Why, Anon? I know I'm not- I'm not as fun as Lotus, or as strong as Roseluck...but I try to be there for you. And f-for them."
  436. >She sniffles into your shirt before inhaling deeply.
  437. >"You've already talked to Rose...I can smell the flowers. I knew you wouldn't come to me first, b-but please Anon, I want to be there for you. I am always here for you! I j-just want you to remember that."
  438. "Hey now, this is my fault, not yours." you reassure her. "I was so focused on trying to impress you girls that, well, I didn't know what to do when I screwed up."
  439. >"But you didn't! You didn't screw up, you were the strong, noble knight defending a helpless mare..."
  440. "That's what I thought at the time, but sitting at the Constable's office and then going before the judge... they didn't seem to agree. So I thought I'd made a fool of myself, and Twilight isn't so impressed either."
  441. >"You went to see her already?"
  442. "I was actually hoping to avoid her." you admit "But she ambushed me as soon as I got back from Canterlot."
  443. >"I see. A lot of ponies think she's going to become part of the Herd. Lotus thinks that's why you won't choose an alpha mare."
  444. "Ha, we're just friends." you say. "But I have said that I won't choose an alpha until I know who all is going to join us, just in case."
  445. >"I could smell the books, behind the roses."
  446. "Oh? A very acute nose you must have." you quip, lifting your bad arm to boop her snoot.
  447. >"H-hey!" she hiccups "I was just trying to figure out how...how many ponies you talked to before you got to me..."
  448. "Aloe, do you think that matters?"
  449. >She just looks away.
  450. >So yes, probably.
  451. "C'mere you silly filly." you say, pulling her up into your lap and planting a kiss on her forehead. "Why would that matter?"
  452. >"It...it just does."
  453. "Aloe..."
  454. >"I just...everypony always looks to Lotus first. I-I-I bet you would have gone to Lotus first if she wasn't working!" she accuses, struggling to escape your grip.
  455. >Locking her down in a strong bear hug, you nuzzle her cheek, which she tries to avoid to no avail.
  456. "That's not true. Lotus was always going to be last, but I hear you Aloe. I want you to know that I don't see you as some kind of package deal with your sister. If Lotus and I broke up, I wouldn't immediately stop seeing you, and I hope you wouldn't immediately break it off either."
  457. >Quietly petting your quiet little mare, you continue.
  458. "I want to be honest with you. Twilight cornered me, and then I went to Lyra and then to Roseluck."
  459. >She looks down, but you pull her chin back up so you can plant a kiss on her nose.
  460. "Hey now, it's not my fault you live on the opposite side of town."
  461. >She huffs as you release her and land another kiss right behind her ear.
  462. "And I wanted to get the worst over first."
  463. >"The...the worst?"
  464. "Yeah."
  465. >"But Roseluck..."
  466. "Was most likely to give me a Sparkle lecture."
  467. >"Okay, you're right." she sniffs, offering a tiny, momentary smile. "But why Lyra?"
  468. "Sometimes I think Lyra thinks I'm perfect." you sigh "But you know better."
  469. >"I do." she hums, "But next time, promise me that you won't run away from me?"
  470. "I've learned my lesson."
  471. >"I don't know about that, but I hope so."
  472. "I guess I'll just have to get into another fight so we can find out."
  473. >Aloe whips around, wriggling in your grasp to push you back against the couch, standing on your thighs and looking down at you, nose to nose.
  474. >"Do not even think about it, Anonymous."
  475. >Whoa.
  476. >Staring up into those crystal blue eyes, you can't help but appreciate how much this mare cares for you.
  477. >It's also kind of hot.
  478. >Reaching up with your free hand, you tuck a few errant strands of her mane back behind her ear.
  479. "Okay, no more fights."
  480. >"Good." she says, dropping her rump on your lap. "You don't have to fight anypony to impress us, Anon."
  481. "I mean, I didn't exactly choose-"
  482. >"I know. But still."
  483. "Okay. Yes, dear."
  484. >With that, she curls up on your lap, leaning her head against your chest.
  485. >You can hear the faint ding of a bell in the laundry room.
  486. "Shouldn't we go get my pants?"
  487. >"They can wait."
  488.  
  489. >"Aloe? I'm home, can I help you with anything?" Lotus calls from near the door.
  490. >"Dinner is in the oven, it should be done in ten minutes." Aloe calls, curled up against you.
  491. >"Okay! I'm going upstairs to get dried off and then I'll be down."
  492. >Aloe simply hums contentedly, and you give her a light squeeze.
  493. >A squeeze that prompts her to crawl entirely into your lap, allowing you to kick your feet up onto the couch and recline at the far end.
  494. >Which allows Aloe to rest her head on your chest, after some careful maneuvering.
  495. >And this is how Lotus discovers you, almost asleep, watching the fire as Aloe does the same on top of you.
  496. >Seeing no place for her on the couch, she instead takes a seat on the loveseat.
  497. >"I see you and Aloe have made up."
  498. "Yes." you nod, stifling a yawn. "And I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"
  499. >"Shshshshsh!" Lotus interrupts "You don't have to apologize to me. I think it was gallant the way you stood up for Flitter. And I told Aloe that you would come and talk to us when you were ready."
  500. >"You...shush. I don't want you... making excuses f'r him." Aloe protests drowsily. "Go get the...the lasagna out."
  501. >Lotus gives her sister a look, but relents and goes to get dinner on the table.
  502. >Aloe paws at your chin, beckoning you to lean in.
  503. >As you lower your head, she puts her muzzle to your ear and plants a tiny kiss beside it.
  504. >"Anon, can you do one more thing for me?"
  505. "Of course."
  506. >"Remind Lotus not to forget the garlic bread."
Herd Herding Hawkeye

Auction Pony Scenes

by Hawkeye

Herd 18

by Hawkeye

Herd 17

by Hawkeye

Herd 16

by Hawkeye

Herd 15

by Hawkeye